The new threat to freedom of expression

We read:

"On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution that calls on states to limit criticism of religions - specifically Islam. This is the tenth time such a resolution has passed at the UN's primary human rights body. Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, began introducing similar resolutions in 1999 arguing that Islam - the only religion specifically cited in the text - must be shielded from unfair associations with terrorism and human rights abuses...

In reality they are calling for laws and actions that prohibit dialogue by declaring certain topics off limits for discussion, leading to intolerance of any view that some Muslims may find offensive. For instance, criticizing the practice of polygamy or the greater weight given to the testimony of men over women in sharia law would be forbidden. Such laws that prohibit blasphemy, defamation, or the defiling of Islam already exist in many of the countries that support the defamation of religions resolutions....

Of course, the very idea that you can defame a religion at all flies in the face of both fundamental rights of expression and belief. A religion, like all ideas and beliefs, must be open to debate, discussion, and even criticism. For this reason, religions themselves do not have rights. Rights belong exclusively to people....

Salmon Rushdie, Flemming Rose, and Theo Van Gogh are just some of the better known individuals who have been attacked - and, in the case of Mr. Van Gogh, killed - for expressing views deemed defamatory. Thousands of lesser-known human rights activists, bloggers, academics, and journalists have been threatened, imprisoned, beaten, or killed for expressing their beliefs. Countless Muslims have been persecuted for voicing a brand of faith deemed unorthodox and therefore blasphemous or defamatory. It is impossible to know how many have not dared to raise their voices out of fear of retribution.

One now rarely hears the term "defamation of religions" without the assertion that it leads to "incitement to hatred and violence," which is viewed as a legitimate restriction on freedom of expression under the ICCPR. Never mind that it isn't possible to defame an idea or belief. Never mind that human rights law was set up to protect the rights of human beings and not beliefs.


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here

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